Abuja and Ilorin — The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa has once more praised President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the new naira redesigning project, describing it as a significant process in the country's fight against financial crimes and other forms of corruption as well as a major step towards economic recovery.
Bawa also disclosed that the number of governors under close watch of the anti-graft agency over alleged money laundering has increased from the three earlier mentioned.
He said these while answering questions from newsmen shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.
The EFCC boss said these just as the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, yesterday disclosed that the commission recovered over N117 billion between January and August 2022.
Also, the CBN yesterday disclosed that it has directed commercial banks in the country to work on Saturdays till January 31, 2023, to enable their customers return the N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes that are to be redesigned.
Bawa had, about a fortnight ago, hinted of the EFCC's surveillance operations around three governors, whom he alleged were being watched over moves associated with money laundering, at the wake of the federal government's plan to redesign the N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.
Answering questions from newsmen, the EFCC boss, however, refused to put a figure to the increase, saying he did not want to be misrepresented.
He said: "On the issue of the governors that we are monitoring, in fact, the numbers have even increased. We are monitoring everything, Nigerians are helping. Well, I don't want to give you the figures so that you will not go and speculate whether they are in the north or in the south, but it's important that Nigerians key into it."
Asked if it was true that the EFCC was using an application called 'the Eagle Eye' to monitor governors wanting to use stashed funds to pay salaries, he said "you are mixing two things; the Eagle Eye is an app, it's a novel idea of the EFCC that we launched for the ease of reporting crimes to us.
"Nigerians can easily download it on their phones, either Android or Apple or whatever, and then they can send in complaints to us through the Eagle Eye, you can even take pictures and send.
"Let me use this opportunity to remind Nigerians that Eagle Eye is very important for those that are reporting the holders of these currencies that we know that are out there. So that is one".
According to him, the huge amount of the country's currency that has left the hold of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) makes trailing financial crimes difficult, noting that the naira redesigning is an opportunity for the government to regain control over flow of cash in the country.
According to him: "You know that there is an obligation of money laundering law that we have, in which an individual is expected to carry out a transaction that is above five million naira, through the financial institution, there is also the threshold in which a corporate entity is expected to carry out transactions that is above 10 million in the financial sector and why is it so? "It is so because financial institutions are expected to be making currency transaction reports, and suspicious transaction reports to relevant agencies. With that, institutions like us will be able to monitor which funds are legitimate and which ones are not legitimate.
"Here we are now, in which 85 per cent of our currency is out in circulation and people are carrying out transactions above the thresholds as provided for by this provision over and above that we will not be able to monitor, we don't know what they're doing.
"These are the transactions that are creating and giving avenue to other forms of crime that we're seeing in this country; payment of ransom, banditry, and all of that, payment of bribery to political actors, and the arrest.
"So, we are happy with this naira redesign in the sense that, it will give central bank an opportunity of going back to square one, by the time they collect all these monies back to their system, then they are going to control the money that they are going to release to the system.
"Then, of course, once the monies are back within the financial institution, it will help to further boost economic activities in the sense that there will be more money for people to borrow and then we on our own part, we'll have the avenue of monitoring what we are doing with all these huge resources that are out there before that are now within the financial institutions.
"So it is a good thing for all of us, for the entire country and that is why we are calling on Nigerians to embrace the policy, to thank the President for coming up with this and then of course, to champion the cause of the successful implementation of this naira redesign," he said.
The EFCC boss, however, appealed to politicians to go about their campaigns without using illegitimate funds in their campaign finances.
His words: "For politicians the message is very clear. Of course you know, they should sell themselves, they should talk about issues. We want to hear about how they are going to solve the problems, not what the problems are, I think it is very important and I think they are doing that. And then of course we encourage that they shouldn't use illegitimate funds in their campaign finances and all of that."
ICPC Recovers N117bn in Eight Months
Meanwhile, Owasanoye, the ICPC Chairman has disclosed that the commission recovered over N117 billion between January and August 2022.
The disclosure came as the agency arraigned a former Judge of the Imo State Customary Court of Appeal, Francis Chukwuma Abosi for allegedly altering an official document to falsify his age and confer an unfair advantage upon himself.
Owasanoye made the disclosure before the House of Representatives' committees on Anti-Corruption and Appropriation during the commission's defense of the 2023 Budget Proposal in Abuja.
While speaking on the 2022 budget performance, the Chairman gave a breakdown of the recoveries to include N1.413 billion and $225,965 in ICPC/TSA recovery account and N1.264 billion cash through tax intervention.
Other recoveries included plots of land, completed buildings, vehicles, electronics and jewelries valued at N679.13 million, N2.603 billion, N81.1 million, N1.55 million and N195,500 respectively.
The ICPC boss added that the commission restrained N49.9 billion through System Study and Review intervention; N6.435 billion cash through budget tracking; N53.91 billion through ICPC advisory and N614.2 million in other accounts.
Apart from the recoveries, the chairman also highlighted other accomplishments of the commission during the 2022 budget cycle to include but not limited to completion of 672 investigations as well as 565 non-petition-led investigations; securing of 15 convictions; 538 projects tracked under Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Initiative (CEPTI); deployment of Ethics and Integrity Compliance Scorecard on 260 MDAs; review of open treasury portal in 30 MDAs; System Study and Review of 10 MDAs; inauguration of 26 Anti-Corruption and Transparency Units (ACTUs); 14 corruption monitoring activities undertaken; and public enlightenment and education of Nigerians on and against corruption through various platforms.
The agency has also arraigned a former Judge of the Imo State Customary Court of Appeal, Francis Chukwuma Abosi for allegedly altering an official document to falsify his age and confer an unfair advantage upon himself.
A separate statement by the commission said Abosi was brought before Justice U.P Kekemeke of the FCT High Court, Maitama Abuja on a three-count charge bordering on forgery and conferring unfair advantage on himself by ICPC.
Investigations revealed that during his appointments in 2010 and 2014, Abosi filed November 17th, 1958, as his date of birth in the National Judicial Council Data before the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
However, luck ran out on him when the NJC wrote to the Nigeria Law School to verify his records.
Unfortunately, findings from both the Law School and his alma mater, the University of Nigeria Nsukka, showed that he was born on the 17th of November 1950.
Consequently, the NJC suspended the defendant from office and recommended him to proceed on compulsory retirement, which he complied with. The Council then went on to report the matter to ICPC.
Return of Old Naira Notes: CBN Directs Banks to Work on Saturdays
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed commercial banks in the country to work on Saturdays till January 31, 2023, to enable their customers return the N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes that are to be redesigned.
This is to enable them beat the deadline of January 31, 2023, for bank customers to change the old banknotes.
Speaking at the CBN fair in Ilorin, Kwara State, yesterday, with the theme, "Promoting Financial Stability and Economic Development," the Director, Corporate Communications Department at the apex bank, Mr. Osita Nwasinobi, said the new and existing currencies shall remain legal tender and circulate together until January 31, 2023, when the existing current shall cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
The fair was well attended by artisans, traders, civil servants, Corps members, farmers among others.
Represented by Acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Akpama Uket, the director said banks have been directed to immediately start returning the existing currencies to the CBN.
"They have also been instructed to receive the existing banknotes beyond the threshold stipulated by the cashless policy without charges to customers.
"Consequently, you must return all the current N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes to your bank before the expiration of the deadline," he added.
The CBN boss said the focus of the bank in redesigning the banknotes was to ensure macroeconomic stability.
He added that, "the current efforts entails building a strong, stable, and resilient economy that is self-sustaining and able to weather unanticipated shocks.
"This the bank will do by applying appropriate monetary policy tools, striving to rein in inflation, and continuously encouraging a productive economy through its interventions."
Meanwhile, the CBN warned Nigerians of consequences of mishandling of naira notes, saying that, "let me also reiterate the need to handle the naira with care.
"The naira remains a symbol of our national pride. Treat it with utmost dignity. Do not spray, squeeze or counterfeit the naira, as default goes with consequences."